Published on June 21, 2022 at 2:45 p.m.
When I was in Summit Hill on Memorial Day for services and the annual parade, I passed a house where a dozen family members had gathered to release balloons to commemorate the loss of a family member. family in battle. As the dozen or so red, white and blue balloons drifted through the sky, I thought to myself this was a moving tribute to a loved one, but where are the balloons going to end up?
Imagine my surprise when I learned several days later that State Rep. Matthew Dowling, R-Fayette, thought the same thing and introduced a bill that would ban balloon releases, which have become routine. for things like birthday parties and anniversary celebrations. , gender reveal events and, as in the case of the Summit Hill family, memorial tributes.
Dowling said he was motivated to introduce the legislation to protect the state’s wildlife and livestock as well as the inhabitants of the deep, because sea life is known to swallow these balloons and die.
The bill (House Bill 2614) would result in fines of up to $100 for violators who release 10 or more balloons. The bill was referred to the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee whose chairman is Greg Metcalfe, R-Butler.
Among the 20 co-sponsors are four from our region – Mike Schlossberg and Jeanne McNeill, both D-Lehigh; Maureen Madden, D-Monroe; and Snowy Mackenzie, R-Lehigh and Northampton.
“While balloon releases may seem like a moving way to remember a loved one or celebrate a special occasion, we need to think about where those balloons end up,” Dowling said in his statement accompanying the introduction of legislation. “They sometimes travel many miles from where they were released and end up in agricultural fields or streams where they are mistaken for food and in many documented cases have resulted in death. ‘animals,’ he added.
“It’s time we recognized all the dangers posed by balloon releases and looked for other ways to celebrate or remember a loved one,” Dowling said.
Leading animal rights advocate Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania state director for the Humane Society of the United States, applauded the introduction of the legislation. “Balloon litter is detrimental to Pennsylvania’s environment and causes immense pain and suffering to animals who mistake pieces of deflated or popped balloons for food or become tangled in their strings,” Tullo said.
My research shows that balloons do not break down quickly and their strings are generally not made of biodegradable materials. Even biodegradable versions can take up to four years to break down.
Although balloon releases are of growing concern, many are still unaware of the negative environmental impacts these seemingly well-meaning individuals and groups are causing.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that wildlife may mistake the small, brightly colored pieces of a balloon for food: “These balloons that are launched don’t just go away; they cling to something like tree branches or electrical wires, deflate and come down, or rise until they burst and fall back to Earth, where they can cause a lot of trouble. Many balloons that are not properly disposed of end up in the ocean and along coastlines and become marine debris. Balloons can be mistaken for food, and if eaten and ingested, balloons and other marine debris can lead to loss of nutrition, internal injury, starvation, and death. The string or ribbon often found tied to balloons can cause tangling. Twine can wrap around marine life and cause injury, illness and suffocation.
There is a movement towards eliminating or reducing single-use plastics. New Jersey, for example, now has a new law banning the distribution of plastic bags in stores and other retail establishments. Plastic pollution remains one of our biggest environmental challenges, especially since microplastics have been found in our food and drinking water and even in the air we breathe. In efforts to reduce the glut of single-use plastic, balloons are often overlooked.
The two most common types of balloons are mylar and latex. Mylar balloons also cause thousands of power outages each year when they come into contact with power lines or circuit breakers.
By Bruce Frassinelli | firstname.lastname@example.org
The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.